'Farm to School' Program Making Apples Available

New Iowa program aims to help educate students about how food is raised.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has commended schools across the state that are participating in the "A" is for Apple Initiative, which has helped make locally grown, Iowa apples available to students across the state. The initiative is part of the Farm to School Program, which was created in 2007 by the Iowa Legislature to support local farm to school efforts.

"Iowa is an agricultural leader and it makes sense to get more of the abundant and safe food we produce here into our schools," says Northey. "This initiative is designed to help to provide students with healthy, locally-grown food and also encourage healthy eating habits."

Through the "A" is for Apple Initiative this fall, Iowa orchards and schools worked together to provide apples to school children. Funds were provided to assist in the purchase of Iowa-grown apples.

Program created to link schools to farmers

In addition, educational materials and promotional items were provided to classrooms to showcase the history and importance of the apple production in Iowa. Classroom presentations and apple tasting were also conducted in a select number of schools.

The Iowa Farm to School Program was created to help link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers, provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa grown food for school meals and snacks, and to encourage children to develop healthy eating habits. It also provides students with hands-on learning opportunities, such as farm visits, cooking demonstrations, and school gardening and composting programs.

"Agriculture is so important to Iowa, this is a great way to showcase our farmers and also educate our young people about how food gets from the farm to their plate," says Northey.

Seven-member council helps coordinate program

The Farm to School Program is coordinated by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education and a seven-member Farm to School Council.

Another effort of the Farm to School program has been to help local networks of individuals and organizations familiar with their community's resources and needs to create Farm to School Chapters. Chapters can encompass an entire school district or can be built around one school and a single project.

In addition to the "A" is for Apple Initiative, a number of other programs will be available to chapter members throughout the year to encourage procurement, consumption and education about locally grown and produced food.

To learn more about this initiative or how to form a Farm to School Chapter go to Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Ag Diversification Bureau's Web site at www.iowaagriculture.gov/agDiversification.asp. You can then click on "Farm to School."

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